Water…in a River?

Rivers in Arizona have undergone many changes in the last century, and don’t carry much water anymore. Water/Ways Guest Blogger Victoria Hermosilla demonstrates that these changes do not have to be permanent. Because many people in Arizona are working together to restore water to rivers, our future can include flowing water and the benefits that come with it.

“We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river yet to explore.” -John Wesley Powell

Colorado River image courtesy of Neal Herbert, NPS.

When John Wesley Powell ran the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon for the first time in 1869, he and his fellow explorers truly had no idea what was before them. Despite the danger and unknown courses, they went forward with their expedition and collected invaluable information about the unique landscape that was (in part) to become Arizona.

The Colorado River is alive today, although no longer in the form that carried Powell and his crew. Originally named for the red sediment it carried from mountains and canyons, today it is a serpentine green amidst the varied desert hues of brown. Where the river worked to carve the landscape out of prehistoric stone, it now works among engineers, hydrologists, and water managers to provide water for millions of people in the Southwest.

Arizona’s “Ghost” Rivers

Rivers continually tell stories of change: changing landscape, changing climate, changing peoples, changing cultures, changing waters. The Colorado River is not the only river to undergo change. Most of the rivers in Arizona have encountered changes in the last century as well. Several of these rivers used to carry water year-round (perennial stream), but are now dry, sandy washes that carry water only with big enough rains (ephemeral or intermittent stream). These ghosts of rivers past remain with us today as channels for flood water, debris, and frequently trash.

Residents of Arizona are familiar with these dry or cemented features, and do not realize water flowed in them not very long ago. The changes that occurred are very new from the perspectives of the rivers, but long ago from the perspectives of the humans who came here in large numbers only recently. For many Arizona residents, it is almost unfathomable to think about Arizona rivers with water in them. Talking about ‘the river’ is akin to talking about a dusty lane that might have paths nearby for walking or biking. However, it is important to keep in mind that what we see today is not what has always been.

Flowing Rivers: More Than Just Water

Many people and organizations within the state of Arizona are working to once again change the rivers in the form of restoration. For example, there is a large effort underway to restore flow to the Santa Cruz River through downtown Tucson.

Treated effluent water may help the Santa Cruz River  flow through downtown Tucson. Selena Quintanilla, Daily Wildcat.

Currently, treated effluent water is released from the Agua Dulce treatment plant into the Santa Cruz channel, and forms the flowing Santa Cruz River for several miles northwest of Tucson. Treated effluent also flows in the Santa Cruz River in Nogales, which is south of Tucson. This water supports many plants and animals that normally like to stick to river habitats (riparian zone). 

City and county planners are looking to take a portion of this effluent and send it to the river channel south of downtown Tucson. This water would then flow north through downtown and bring with it many of the benefits seen in the other sections of river with effluent water: lush trees and plants, native fish, birds, and insects, and more water stored underground as water soaks into the riverbed. Additional benefits include shade, cooling effects, businesses moving close to the river, residents enjoying the river park and close-by amenities, increased community connection to the river, and the lovely sense of peace one gets when close to flowing water.

Restoring Water Flow Means Reconnecting With Culture

Another example of effort to restore water flow comes from the Gila River Indian Community. The Community has been working hard on their lands along the Gila River to remove invasive plant species, reestablish native plant species, and allow for the natural development of wetlands to boost the health of the waterway. For the Community, this work has also restored important cultural connections to the river, their land, and their traditions.

The late Rodney Lewis, longtime general counsel for the Gila River Indian Community (L) with his son, current GRIC Governor Stephen Roe Lewis. Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune.

The Gila and the Santa Cruz Rivers, like the Colorado River, have undergone many changes in the last 100 years as more people have moved into the area. While these and other Arizona rivers are dry, dusty pauses through our urban and rural landscapes, they haven’t always been so. Nor do they need to remain so. As much as rivers have changed, they can change again with some effort on our part.
From the time of John Wesley Powell and his crew to now, the rivers of Arizona are the stories of change: change from what used to be and change that we can imagine for our future.

Water/Ways is in Bisbee through July 15 and coming to Fort Apache on July 28! 

Learn more about Arizona rivers from these Water/Ways community partners and sponsors:

Friends of the San Pedro River, collaborating with Sierra Vista

Friends of the Santa Cruz River, working with Tubac

Friends of the Verde River, partnering with Camp Verde

Black Canyon Heritage Park, in collaboration with Black Canyon City

Victoria Hermosilla is a graduate student in the University of Arizona Hydrology and Atmospheric Science Department. She is passionate about all things water and wants to serve Arizona’s water in her career. In her free time, she loves to dance and ride her horse PJ.

Sierra Vista Teacher Training

WaterSim Arizona: A Teaching Tool for Rural Arizona

Emily and Liz with the WaterSim kiosk

Emily Grunspan and Liz Marquez from DCDC with the WaterSim Kiosk at the Water/Ways exhibit in Bisbee

Arizona faces new challenges in the 21st century including long-term drought, the impact of climate change, and reduced public funding. These challenges require new approaches to water sustainability that focus on choices, priorities, and smart investments. How will Arizona choose to use our available water to sustain our economy, quality of life, and natural environment?

Do you think you could manage water sustainably during a drought?

Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at Arizona State University has created a water simulation model called WaterSim Arizona. Using water data, this simulation game mimics the water supply and use dynamics for five distinct regions in the state of Arizona. Visitors to the Water/Ways exhibit can use the WaterSim Arizona kiosk to see the impact of their decisions as they balance water supplies and demand in their region. People of all ages will learn that there are tradeoffs as they manage Arizona’s water.

Teaching Tools for Educators

WaterSim Arizona example

WaterSim Arizona example

DCDC is offering teachers access to a classroom version of WaterSim Arizona that students can use to learn more about water in their region and the options and tradeoffs involved in water management. DCDC is also offering curriculum training opportunities to teachers of grades 7-14 in conjunction with the Water/Ways exhibit through the Rural Arizona Water Education Project, supported by a grant from the Ellis Center for Educational Excellence of the Arizona Community Foundation. At each training, teachers are given a baseline understanding of water around the world, at the national level, and then at the state and regional levels. Using this information, teachers are trained to use DCDC’s WaterSim Arizona, a hands-on, immersive visualization tool used to understand the complexity of regional water sustainability. Teachers receive a companion curriculum for use in their classrooms.

Sierra Vista Teacher Training

Sierra Vista teacher training in April

This training also includes the Smithsonian Institution’s WaterStories initiative, which provides a humanities outlet for water education in Arizona. DCDC offers guidance to teachers in the form of equipment and resources for classrooms to develop, record, and share local stories about water from students, their families, and local stakeholders. DCDC is able to compensate teachers for their time and provide support for these programs to be implemented in the classroom.

Thus far, 28 teachers have participated in three training sessions in Sierra Vista and Miami in preparation for the Water/Ways tour stops in Bisbee, Sierra Vista, and Miami. Teachers in attendance came from the host site communities also surrounding communities including Benson, Douglas, Globe and San Carlos. Additional training sessions will be scheduled in communities surrounding future tour sites.

For more information about WaterSim, please contact Emily Grunspan, DCDC Education Coordinator, Emily.grunspan@asu.edu or visit http://waterwaysaz.org/resources/dcdc-and-watersim/.

Water/Ways Exhibit

Behind the Scenes: Launching Water/Ways in Bisbee

Water/Ways Bisbee Install

Water/Ways, a Smithsonian Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit, made its Arizona debut at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum on June 2. The grand opening was seamless, but that smooth launch depended on a lot of work behind the scenes.

Planning teams from future host sites Fort Apache, Miami, Florence, Sierra Vista, Dragoon, and Black Canyon City spent two days learning how to set the exhibit up in their towns by helping the museum staff do it in Bisbee. “We were fortunate to be the first site to host Water/Ways in the state,” says Museum Director Carrie Gustavson. “We had about twenty people to help us unload and install the exhibit!”

Planning for the installation actually began days before the helpers arrived. “The exhibit comprises five modular units of three different sizes, the largest thirteen-plus feet in length,” says Gustavson. “Although measurements were printed in the Water/Ways Local Coordinator Manual, laying out the actual panels was a very enlightening experience.”

Water/Ways Bisbee InstallLuckily, the museum had expert help. Carol Harsh is Director of Museum on Main Street, a division of the Smithsonian that curates high-quality traveling exhibits for rural communities. Harsh came to Bisbee with a vinyl “footprint” of the Water/Ways exhibit unit bases. “We spent several hours playing with the footprint to make it work the evening before the install workshop,” Gustavson recalls. The tall, undulating exhibit units had to fit into two antique rooms that have elegant high ceilings, but are not exactly spacious. “Carol and I kept sliding the vinyl pieces around the floor, then breaking down laughing at some of the odd configurations we came up with. However, the smart, modular design of the exhibit counters the panel sizes so it will work in all kinds of funky spaces, such as ours here in Bisbee.”

Water/Ways Bisbee InstallThe installation days were a flurry of activity. Some volunteers wheeled large black crates from the storage basement of a shopping arcade, pushed them across a bumpy road, and guided them into a side door of the museum. Others unpacked the carefully numbered rails, panels and placards and put them together with guidance from the installation handbook. With so many eager people helping, there were only a few hiccups during the assembly. The exhibit’s moving parts required extra time to attach to the panels, and a few leftover bolts and knobs inspired some nervous laughter when everything was assembled. Most team members, though, were surprised that the units came together so easily. As afternoon light streamed through the high windows and illuminated the tall panels, team members congratulated each other and marveled at the immersive beauty of the exhibit.

Gustavson and her staff in Bisbee have some advice for future Water/Ways host sites.

  • Get serious about setup. “Take advantage of the vinyl footprint before you even begin unloading. The shipping crates are keyed to each modular unit so you can build the exhibit in the order that best suits your space.”
  • Start recruiting reliable volunteers well before delivery and installation. “Get a lot of people to help you–pushing around and unloading twenty giant crates is a lot of work!”
  • Consider not just the space where the exhibit will be set up, but the terrain around the exhibit and storage sites. “The crates push easily on smooth flat surfaces,” Gustavson advises, “but if your community is anything like mine, smooth flat surfaces are a rarity.”

Water/Ways will be in Bisbee until July 15, then will travel to Fort Apache where it opens on July 28. The exhibit will visit ten more rural communities in Arizona through March 2020. For the complete tour schedule and everything you ever wanted to know about Arizona water, visit the Water/Ways Arizona web site at http://waterwaysaz.org. Congratulations to the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, the volunteer installation team, and the community of Bisbee on the successful Arizona grand opening of Water/Ways!

Water/Ways Install team poses with the Water/Ways Week Proclamation from Governor Doug Ducey

Water/Ways Install team poses with the Water/Ways Week Proclamation from Governor Doug Ducey

Governor Proclamation for Water/Ways Week

As part of the kickoff to the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit’s arrival in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey has issued an official proclamation declaring June 2 – 8 as Water/Ways Week.

June 2 marks the official opening of Water/Ways at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. The exhibit will travel to 12 rural communities across the state through March 2020. Bisbee has planned a unique calendar of free programs during the exhibit that encourages visitors to learn, discuss, and reflect on water stories in the community.

Check out the proclamation below, and then explore the Water/Ways website for water stories, resources, and upcoming programs.

Limited Edition Water/Ways Coloring Books

Arizona Humanities created a "Water is Life" coloring book to complement the Water/Ways exhibit. The coloring book presents the water stories of the 12 communities hosting the exhibit. Each site collected unique stories and artifacts from their respective communities. The result was an array of drawings, historical photos, paintings, and poems. Artist Isaac Caruso transformed these into colorable illustrations. Isaac is an illustrator, graphic designer, creative director and muralist born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. The coloring book's front and back covers represent the vibrant and rich history of water in Arizona. Explore the stories of the 12 Water/Ways communities!

We invite you to pick up a limited edition coloring book at the Water/Ways host sites, starting in Bisbee on June 2. For a full schedule of exhibit sites, visit the Host Sites page.

Read more about Isaac and download the printable coloring book pages.

Dive into Water/Ways at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum June 2 – July 15

Dive into the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum June 2 – July 15

Burros Loaded With Water Bags
Used with Permission, Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum
Frank Brophy (born in Bisbee in 1894) describes his uncle’s water-delivery service: “The main Transport in Bisbee when I was a very little boy were burros and that was a common sight. Some of the burros had canvas sacks slung over on each side. My uncle started the first water company, which later became the Bisbee-Naco Water Company. He had a well up in Tombstone Canyon so the water was then transported by burros in water sacks. In those days, it was when John D. Rockefeller was beginning his fortune. His name was synonymous with the five-gallon oil can and every house had two to three five-gallon oil cans. The water was taken from the burros and put into these cans and people used it as they needed it.” (Used with permission Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum)
Located 92 miles southeast of Tucson, Bisbee is the county seat of Cochise County. The San Pedro River flows west of this rural town that is twelve miles from the U.S-Mexico border.
A few upcoming programs: Water Conservation Through Xeriscaping (June 9), How Bisbee’s Wastewater Treatment Facility Works to Secure our Water Future (June 12), Bisbee’s Long “Bromance” with Water (June 19), Water Reclamation Meets Bisbee’s Copper Mining History (June 26), Water Conservation for Kids (June 13, 20), and more!
June 2 – July 15
5 Copper Queen Plz, Bisbee, AZ 85603
Open Daily 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Smithsonian traveling exhibit to make a splash in Arizona

Water/Ways exhibit will travel to 12 rural communities across Arizona

From above, the Earth appears as a planet with more than 71 percent of its surface covered with the most vital resource for life…water. Water impacts climate, agriculture, transportation, industry and more. It inspires art, music and literature. Arizona has just experienced a historically dry winter, and water is on our minds more than ever. What can we do now to secure water for future generations? The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibit “Water/Ways” explores the past, present, and future of water on our planet.

Presented by Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University, this compelling Water/Ways exhibit will travel to twelve Arizona communities from June 2018 through March 2020. The itinerary is available below and online at the new Water/Ways website: www.azhumanities.org/waterwaysAZ Water/Ways explores water’s environmental and cultural impact in Arizona and beyond. The exhibit brings people together to learn about water’s impact on American culture.  Each town will offer a variety of talks, films, programs and educational activities that teach people about the importance of water in our own communities, and in the world.

The Water/Ways host communities each have complex and unique water stories to tell. The exhibit opens in Bisbee, Arizona on June 2. Did you know that during the late 1800s and early 1900s Bisbee’s copper smelters depleted groundwater? This caused wells to go dry. Fresh water was then retrieved from several miles away, loaded into canvas sacks, and transported to the booming mining town by burro. Winkelman and nearby communities southeast of Phoenix are famous for their mining history, but few Arizonans know that Aravaipa Creek and the San Pedro and Gila Rivers provided a rich foundation for small-scale agriculture in the area, a tradition that the Copper Corridor hopes to revive in the form of farmer’s markets specializing in local products. Did you know that the Verde River, one of only two “Wild and Scenic” waterways in Arizona, was once called “the Dirty Verde”? Most Arizonans know that Lake Havasu City is home to the authentic London Bridge, but fewer know that the reservoir created by construction of the Parker Dam in 1938, supplies billions of gallons of water daily to destinations in Southern California and central Arizona.

All Water/Ways programs and events are free and open to the public. Families, children and adults of all ages are welcome. You can follow the conversation online at #waterwaysAZ and #thinkwater. The Water/Ways website (www.azhumanities/waterwaysaz) lists information about each host community, upcoming water programs, resources, and educational curriculum for teachers and students, from the ASU Decision Center for Desert City.

Brenda Thomson, Executive Director of Arizona Humanities, salutes ASU and the many contributors to this ambitious undertaking.  “The Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit should not be missed. By partnering with ASU we have been able to double the number of communities that will be able to experience this world class exhibit. We expect 30,000 visitors to come to events across the state. Many visitors travel to multiple exhibit locations. They want to see mining towns, the Hoover Dam, valleys, rivers and museums. It’s an opportunity to see and learn things about water you never knew before.”

ASU Professor Dr. Paul Hirt is the State Scholar for Water/Ways . Hirt led the ASU Public History Lab. Prof. Hirt and ASU graduate students helped the host communities capture the complex ways in which water shapes history, settlement, environment, ethics, and culture in Arizona.  Hirt observed “Access to clean, affordable water in the desert southwest will become ever more critical to a sustainable and just future as we face continued population growth and a warming, drying climate. Sharing our water values and concerns through public programs like Water/Ways may help us face our future challenges cooperatively and with empathy rather than through misunderstanding and conflict.”

Water/Ways is made possible by support from Arizona Humanities, and the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Water/Ways is sponsored by the Salt River Project, Nestlé Waters North America, the American Slavic Association, and Chaos RX Optics. The ASU Decision Center for Desert City Rural Arizona Water Education project is supported by a grant from the Ellis Center for Educational Excellence of the Arizona Community Foundation and the National Science Foundation. To learn more, please visit www.azhumanities.org/waterwaysAZ or call Arizona Humanities at 602-257-0335.

Read the full press release here.

Explore Bisbee’s Water/Ways programs

“OK, we’re a mining and history museum, so what’s all this about water?”

In Bisbee and throughout Arizona, the answer is that everything is about water! The Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum will host the Water/Ways exhibit from June 2 through July 15, 2018. Water/Ways is traveling to 12 rural Arizona communities through March 2020 as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program. In Bisbee, local exhibits and programming will explore the cultural and environmental impact of water from the town’s origins as a lucrative mining center to its current status as a state leader in water quality and conservation efforts. Read the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum’s latest newsletter to find out more about the stories, activities, speakers and exhibits that will bring Bisbee’s water story to life!

Click here to read the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum newsletter.

Water – Use It Wisely blog features Water/Ways exhibit

Courtesy Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum

Water – Use It Wisely, the popular water conservation website recently featured water stories from the Arizona Water/Ways exhibit.

Read about celebrating Arizona water stories, and get a preview of the exhibit.
Water – Use It Wisely offers tons of free resources, from 100+ ways to conserve water, water-saving products, games for kids, education materials for teachers, water-wise events and more.

Join Navigating Waters and explore water in Arizona communities

Navigating Waters: A program series exploring water in Arizona communities

The Smithsonian traveling exhibition Water/Ways launches on June 2 in Bisbee. Arizona Humanities will feature many FREE events, programs and activities about water at locations across Arizona. Check our website for programs near you.

MidTown Watershed Project: Part 1 

Saturday, March 17
8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

with Flowers and Bullets Tucson
Julia Keen School – Tucson, AZ 85713

Join Luis Herrera, Jesus Romero, and Brandon Alexander from Flowers & Bullets (F&B) for an interactive series on water harvesting, water education, and gardening workshops focused on water conservation.  Each workshop is conducted at the Midtown Farm site, which serves the Barrio Centro & Julia Keen communities and outlines a different approach to manage our watersheds while educating community members on water conservation. F&B uses the newly acquired 9.5 acre Midtown Farm as an educational site that has a potential impact on the water aquifers of Southern Arizona. Part 1 will focus on the importance, history, social context and science of water harvesting. Participants will engage in the plans & process of the reconstruction of an on-site Ramada, soon to be outfitted with rain gutters and a cistern that leads to a greenhouse.

“Water in Arizona: Past, Present, Future” with Dr. Paul Hirt
Wednesday, April 18

7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Patagonia Public Library
342 Duquesne Ave, Patagonia, AZ 85624

Water is Arizona’s most precious resource. Yet few people know where their water comes from, who provides it, how its quality is assured, or how secure future water supplies are for Arizona’s 6 million residents. We face very serious water supply sustainability challenges in the coming decades as the state continues to grow and the climate becomes warmer and drier. When there is a shortage, who has priority? Who makes these critical decisions about our water future? ASU Professor of History and Sustainability Paul Hirt takes us on a bird’s eye view of the past, present, and future of water in Arizona. Hirt is the state scholar for the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibition.

AZ H20 + Art with Jim Ballinger
Tuesday, April 24
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Taliesin West
12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259
Hoover Dam is an iconic marvel of American engineering. Created to manage the floodwaters of the Colorado River, the dam continues to affect Arizonans’ lives daily. But the Hoover dam is rarely thought of as a significant work of art. Since artists first visited our region, water has been a subject for their work, ranging from rivers and lakes to dams, agriculture and recreation. This program will explore works of art created over the past 150 years, and invite participants to discuss the various ways water is systemic to life in the Arizona deserts, mountains and the Colorado Plateau. In collaboration with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

MidTown Watershed Project: Part 2
Saturday May 5

8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
with Flowers and Bullets Tucson
Julia Keen School – Tucson, AZ 85713

Join Luis Herrera, Jesus Romero, and Brandon Alexander from Flowers & Bullets (F&B) for an interactive series of water harvesting, water education, and gardening workshops focused on water conservation at the Midtown Farm site, which serves the Barrio Centro & Julia Keen communities. Each workshop outlines a different approach to manage our watershed and to educate our community members on water conservation. Part 2 will focus on the history, cultural relevance and science of monsoon planting by explaining the use of particular water slopes, basins, and swells along the south west side of the site which will help with the conservation of water.

About Water/Ways
Arizona Humanities and the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University are excited to bring an exclusive Arizona tour of Water/Ways, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibition arrives in Arizona June 2018 and will travel to 12 rural communities through March 2020.